Roma Khanna was appointed President, Global Networks & Digital Initiatives, NBC Universal International in September 2007. In this role, Roma oversees the full portfolio of over 60 NBC Universal television channels, including the Sci-Fi, 13th Street, Universal Channel, Hallmark Channel, Divatv and Movies24 brands.
Roma Khanna was appointed President, Global Networks & Digital Initiatives, NBC Universal International in September 2007. In this role, Roma oversees the full portfolio of over 60 NBC Universal television channels, including the Sci-Fi, 13th Street, Universal Channel, Hallmark Channel, Divatv and Movies24 brands. Roma and her team generate growth through geographical expansion, local and pan-regional partnerships and channel creation, with a focus on strengthening the content and identity of the channel brands and creating strong business models. Roma also oversees the Digital Initiatives division which creates digital businesses and content for NBCU.
Her appointment formed part of NBC Universal International’s 2007 initiative to drive international growth and to more than double revenues from its Global Networks division. The expansion is well underway with the launch of new channels throughout 2007 and 2008.
Previously, Roma was Senior Vice President, Content and Co-Head of CHUM Television (acquired in 2007 by CTV). In this role, she guided all of the TV group’s domestic and international content creation, pre-licensing, program acquisitions and distribution efforts, overseeing the Programming, Independent Production, In-House Production, International Distribution and channel formats, Interactive and Creative Services units across CHUM’s 33 television stations and multiple international and interactive distribution outlets.
Prior to this, Roma was Vice President, CHUM Interactive, where she was responsible for the strategic and day-to-day operations of all new media and cross-platform content initiatives for CHUM Radio and Television. In this position, Roma leveraged CHUM’s well-known brands across various new media platforms, including interactive television, wireless services and Internet properties, and created new interactive initiatives including Canada’s first cross-carrier ringtones store (shop.muchmusic.com) and the MuchPhone (a MuchMusic branded mobile phone series).
Before joining CHUM in 2003, Roma was Executive Vice President for Snap Media, a leading independent interactive producer, where she was involved in the production/creation of cross-media projects for television and film. And prior to Snap Media, Roma was Manager of Legal and Business Affairs at Sony Music Canada.
Roma is currently a Co-Chair of the Board for the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) and is Chair of the Board for the Canadian Film Centre. In 2005 Roma was named one of the top female global entertainment industry executives to watch by both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. She was also profiled as one of 20 people from the international TV industry who had a standout year in 2005 by Television Business International (TBI). She has been named one of the industry’s brightest and most accomplished young leaders in the Top 40 Under 40 list both in Canada and in the U.K.
Roma holds both her Canadian and U.S. law degrees as well as an MBA.
ASIANCE: What was your career path that brought you to your current position?
Roma: I’m a lawyer and I have my MBA. I have worked as a lawyer for a number of years in the music industry and from there I went to a digital media company. From there, I went to a television company in their digital media division, then running the contents for the television company and then from there to the job I’m in now.
ASIANCE: How many years did it take you from graduating school to get where you are today, President of Global Networks and Digital Initiatives at NBC Universal International?
Roma: It took me 15 years.
If I had any suggestion I would say, get out there in the world and see it while you have the time on your hands. Enjoy it and absorb new ideas and new cultures because I think that will benefit more than anything.
ASIANCE: What does your job entail?
Roma: I oversee all of NBC Universal’s Entertainment cable channels around the world.
ASIANCE: What is a typical day like for you?
Roma: I can’t give you a typical day. It’s a pretty broad unit where we have television channels in different countries around the world. We have fantastic leaders in most of those countries running their local businesses. Then we have a central headquartered team that has functional expertise across areas like programming, marketing or technical functions. I oversea those functions across all of our businesses and my job is really to help coordinate, keep us on strategy and make sure we’re hitting our numbers and putting out fires.
ASIANCE: What do you see as the future for digital media?
Roma: I think things are changing pretty dramatically right now in television and in media, in general. I think with the advertising industry, it’s going to be a new way of doing things. A new normal that’s just going to settle over the next year or so that will change the way we think about digital media and television. At the end of the day, it’s still a great form of entertainment that I think we’ve seen. Even in tough times people watch TV and in most cases, they watch more TV.
ASIANCE: Do you see the web and TV combining any time soon?
Roma: I think that is already happening in a lot of different places. You have products like Hulu.com and everything from YouTube to Video on Demand and the various Pay Per TV services available all over the world. It’s just going to get more seamless and easier for the consumer.
ASIANCE: Do you recommend any new area of study for college students? A subject they should be educated in?
Roma: I think it’s about opening up your mind and thinking differently and thinking globally about business. It’s about thinking about the world as one market and interconnected and interdependent. I think any subjects that help you think in that way are going to be helpful. And that can be anything, from learning languages to studying different arts and literature to thinking about the global economy and banking & finance. All knowledge is a good thing but it has to be balanced with experience. If I had any suggestion I would say, get out there in the world and see it while you have the time on your hands. Enjoy it and absorb new ideas and new cultures because I think that will benefit more than anything.
ASIANCE: Did you have a mentor?
Roma: Every step along the way, I’ve had mentors. I’ve had lots of people who gave their time and expertise and supported me in different ways. I think without a network of mentors, I certainly wouldn’t have gotten where I am.
ASIANCE: Are there many other Asian Women in the company? Were Asian American women mentors to you?
Roma: Well my mom (laughs) is one of the smartest people I know. Honestly, I think Asian men and women are a big part of Hollywood and entertainment companies. You see that with the Indian Film Festival of LA and some of the awards they’ve given out. They have an amazing group of people with Asian backgrounds that are working in entertainment. In general, I think there is more women executives as well, in more and more senior positions. I think we have some ways to go. It’s a pretty open environment now, for the right person, the smart person who has skills and a passion for what they do, to really get ahead.
ASIANCE: What do you do in your time off?
Roma: I don’t have any time off. (laughs) I like spending time with my friends and family. That is the most important thing to me and what energizes me the most. Believe or not, I watch TV. I watch it at work and at home.
ASIANCE: What are your favorite programs?
Roma: Oh there are too many to name. I’m a big fan of Heroes, House, Grey’s Anatomy, and Lost.
ASIANCE: Anything interesting about you that you would like to share? Something you did as a child?
Roma: No. Really for me, I’m obsessed with television and always have been. I’m very lucky to have turned that into my job. When I was young, I was always told by my parents that I watch too much TV but it benefited me in the end.
ASIANCE: Did your parents push you into a typical career path? Did you have any resistance?
Roma: Yes. I went to law school. For my parents they are pretty amazing people. They pushed us really hard to do the best that we could do but I think they would’ve been happy no matter what I did.
If you are ever at a company that doesn’t value you, then take your great talent and go across the street to somebody else.
ASIANCE: What is your advice to women who want to get involved with Digital Initiatives at NBC?
Roma: I think it’s the same advice I would give anyone which is you have to work hard, you have to be passionate about it. It’s not worth the time and energy to work if you don’t really love what you do. If you really love what you do, work hard at it and you will succeed. If you are ever at a company that doesn’t value you, then take your great talent and go across the street to somebody else.
ASIANCE: What is coming up for NBC Universal in terms of Global Networks and Digital Initiatives? And/or the industry as a whole?
Roma: To me it’s really about expanding our pay television and cable television around the world. What’s really exciting is lots of markets, even in this economy, that are still growing and are still really strong, exciting, dynamic markets. We want to be in as many dynamic TV markets as we can be with our great brand and great channels. So the next year is going to be about watching new channels in interesting places like Eastern Europe and in Asia and making them really great channels with strong brands and interesting TV shows.
ASIANCE: How do you keep up with trends?
Roma: I read as much as I can when I have breaks during the day. I receive a lot of email alerts from different publications. I really, really rely on the people around me to share information. Also for networks of people, your friends, colleagues, even friends that your competitors are sharing interesting information and having a dialogue about the world we’re working in, is invaluable.
You have to have a network of information besides you these days. There’s no way for you to do it alone.
ASIANCE: Do you follow any other Asian American women’s career?
Roma: The film director, Deepa MehtaI. I have so much respect for her and really love the passionate work that she’s done and the exciting work that she’s done in film. The films appeal to a wide audience not just an Asian crowd although her films have strong Asian themes that run through them like “Water”. “Heaven on Earth” was just fantastic talking about Asian Women in North America. She’s someone I really, really love.
Kamala Harris – she is running for Attorney General for California in 2010. She’s a phenomenal lawyer in the US and a fantastic role model. Kamala has an Indian Mom and African-American Dad – noted by the NY Times as being one of 17 women who could become the President of the US.
ASIANCE: Would you ever want to make your own films?
Roma: I’ve produced films before and that’s not for me. I’m really happy to be working for a company that has such an amazing film division. It’s always fun amazing things. It’s always fun for me.
ASIANCE: What did you think about Slumdog Millionaire?
Roma: It was a really great film with really great actors and a great script. Danny Boyle is a fantastic director. The soundtrack was wonderful. It was entertaining. I loved watching it. It was a great story. It’s fiction. So it had dreams and truths to it but it’s not necessarily one lens through which you can see a place like Mumbai.
I’m so thrilled it got so much attention and brought the spotlight to such amazing talent. It would have been really, really wonderful if it was made by an Indian filmmaker. I can’t complain, Danny Boyle is a fantastic filmmaker.